Pushkar

On 25th March 2018, we caught a 9am bus to Pushkar from Jaipur. The hostel had helped us book the bus online through the government website (the RARTC). It cost us 276 rupees (£3) for the two of us which was very cheap! We also found out that, as a woman, I get 30% off travelling on government buses in Rajasthan which I think is to encourage females to travel but I don’t know for sure… whatever the reason was it really made a difference in lowering the price of our ticket!

Niall wasn’t feeling well and we nearly missed our bus as we were working out whether to stay another day in Jaipur or not. It was extra unfortunate he wasn’t feeling great because the bus we ended up getting was probably the worst of our entire trip. It wasn’t air conditioned (in 30+ degree heat) and seemed like the suspension was on overdrive so every bump in the road had us flying out of our seats! The seats were just benches and yet we still somehow had seat numbers and we were the only tourists on the entire bus which caused us to get loads of curious looks. It was noisy, hot and dusty but eventually, after around 5 hours, we made it to Pushkar. As we got off the bus I heard the driver asking the conductor how we had managed to be on their bus in the first place, they were speaking in Hindi but I heard him say “online booking” so it was easy to work out that they were talking about us.

We had booked into a hostel called Madpackers for its good reviews and unlimited breakfast included in the price. The hostel was very pretty and every wall was completely covered in murals of Indian palaces, sultans and princesses. It was hard to tell but it looked like the pictures had been painted directly onto the walls which, if that was the case, must have taken weeks as the hostel was enormous! Our dorm was good with aircon and a comfy bed and the staff were so helpful and even ended up sorting us out discount for our accommodation in our next stop, Jodhpur.

Since Niall wasn’t feeling great we just chilled in the hostel for the rest of that day and only went out for tea that night. Pushkar is a very religious place so it’s completely vegetarian and there is also no alcohol here (unless you know where to look to get some illegally – anything is possible in India after all). Pushkar was meant to be particularly good for food and has a strong middle-eastern influence which impacted on the food on offer. I had a look on TripAdvisor and found that there was a range of a street stalls that served falafel wraps so we chose the top rated place called Ganges Original Laffa and Falafel Restaurant which ended up being where we ate every night as it was so good! We had wraps filled with falafel, chips, cheese, avocado, veg and garlic sauce and they were enormous for only £1.70! I miss those wraps just writing about it!

Pushkar is essentially one long, winding street so it’s easy to navigate your way around (and that’s saying something coming from me as my sense of direction is terrible)! Hippies, artists and yoga instructors have taken over the area and we probably saw more westerners with dreadlocks than I think I’ve ever seen in my life. There are so many stalls lining the streets selling clothing, jewellery or dream catchers etc. so it was nice to wander the streets and have a look at it all as it made the place very colourful. There was also a desert park at the end of the long street that had camels covered in bright fabrics and camel rides were on offer from here into the surrounding deserts nearby.

Amongst the shops were falafel stands, fruit carts and small shrines and temples. In the evening, as you’re walking towards your falafel wrap of the night you will hear a lot of bells being rung as the religious rituals of that evening begin. The noise isn’t really relaxing but helps to create a great atmosphere about the place as people come to worship and pray here.

There were also loads of cows, probably the most we’d seen in India and these cows seemed a bit more gutsy with even the locals often giving them a wide birth. For example, we saw one cow try and steal someone’s food out of his hands and he only just saved it and we saw many people on scooters swerving quickly out of the way of an approaching cow! It’s the horns that get me and we also rush past a cow if we’re having to pass one in a narrow space!

Pushkar is built around a natural lake that’s in the middle of the city. The lake is sacred to Hindus as it’s related to the creator-god Brahma. The Pushkar Lake has been mentioned on coins as early as the 4th Century BC so has had significance in India for centuries.

Around the lake are 52 ghats and over 500 Hindu temples and the whole area is very spiritual to those of the Hindu faith which is especially evident in the evening when the bells and chanting can be heard throughout the streets. It is believed that a dip in the lake can cleanse you of your sins and even cure skin conditions. As we walked down to the lake we were given flowers by some people on the side of the road and were told to put this in the lake. When we arrived at the lake we were assigned a person who started a blessing ritual that involved repeating words and phrases (like ‘good health’, ‘good job’ etc.) and having coloured powder like turmeric placed on our foreheads. This was all fine and we felt good to be introduced to this spiritual process until we were told that we needed to give a donation for our family to receive the blessings we were saying. As a rule we don’t give money for donations particularly as it’s hard to even know if they’re legit in the first place and it’s just not something we have built into our budget anyway, that’s our choice and we have no issue with other people donating as that’s their choice. So, we didn’t give any money and Niall even got asked to leave by the man who was going through the ritual with him whereas my guy was a lot more polite (sorry mum and dad but no blessings for you in Pushkar!) Particularly for Niall as he had been rudely treated, it left a sour taste in his mouth and didn’t get Pushkar off to the best start. Unfortunately for us, we hadn’t seen a sign that was in our hostel warning us about the flower trick as that could have all been avoided and we were quick to decline any future flowers during the rest of our stay.

We found another entrance to the ghats and got to have a better look at the lake which also had people swimming in and washing clothes. Although they asked about performing the ceremony, other entrances did leave you alone to look at the ghats in peace if you declined which made it much easier to enjoy.

Brahma Temple is probably the most famous temple in Pushkar. It’s one of the few temples in India dedicated to Brahma and this one is the most prominent temple amongst them. The temple was built in the 14th Century and has a large red pinnacle known as a shikhara in the centre of it. Throughout the day when it’s open (it closed for a few hours during the hottest part of the day) there was a steady stream of people visiting the temple. We thought it was ok but I think it has a more spiritual attraction over the aesthetics of the place. I think sometimes these kinds of places can be lost when you’re not of the religion or a particularly spiritual person. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temple and, unfortunately, I didn’t make good enough notes at the time so I actually can’t remember too much about what the temple looked like which I guess in itself shows how memorable we found it.

The entrance to the temple

The Old Rangji Temple was a place you’d have missed if you weren’t looking out for it as it was just a sign over an archway on the street that showed you it was there. Although you can only walk around it so it doesn’t take long, the carvings on the entire structure are cool and so it’s good to go and see as you’re wandering around. The Hindu temple was commissioned in 1823 and is dedicated to Lord Rangji who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The whole temple is in the middle of a courtyard and so is really peaceful to walk around away from the bikes and horns that are everywhere in India. It’s called the Old Rangji temple as a new Rangji temple has also been built but tourists weren’t allowed in that one which is fair enough.

Old Rangji Temple

The new Rangji Temple, pictured from the entrance

On our last night in Pushkar we climbed to the Savitri Temple which is at the top of Ratngagiri Hill and overlooks the entire city and lake as well as out across the surrounding mountains and desert. It took us half an hour to walk up the stairs to the top although there was also a cable car but we didn’t see the point in spending the money on it when there are steps all the way up and we could take our time with the walk to the top. We didn’t really think much of the temple itself but that’s not the main reason to climb the hill as we wanted a good view for sunset. The temple was built in 1687 and is named after Savitri, who was the wife of Brahma.

The views were nice from the top and showed you how small Pushkar actually was compared to the other places we had been on our trip of India. Our favourite bit about the climb were all the langurs that were at the top. We saw so many and they were getting fed by people which was entertaining to watch. We even saw one monkey sprint past me to steal a bag of food out of someone’s hand before running off out of reach to eat it. The man didn’t have a chance to react before the monkey was high up ripping open the bag and enjoying the spoils of it’s crime!

Pushkar was a nice rest stop for us particularly with Niall still not being very well but there really isn’t an awful lot of stuff to do there so a lot of the time we just chilled or wandered around the streets people watching. We enjoyed our time here and it was nice to go somewhere that had quite a different influence to other places we had been to in India.

Next stop: Jodhpur

Sending Love x

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